A CAE-oriented look back at the year 2022

The genre of the text to follow must be "science fiction". Therefore, I ask you not to frown at me any more that you would frown at a science fiction professional doing the same thing. I have, by the way, mostly reshuffled the arguments of this LinkedIn discussion.

I find the "Mechanical Engineering magazine" just awesome due to its ability to capture the joy and enthusiasm of mechanical engineering and at the same time maintain an impeccable quality. In a "Letter to the Editor" published in the December 2017 issue, Chris Vreeman elaborates further on the topic of projecting into the future. With his kind permission, you can read about his thoughts here.

And now I ask you to lean forward and imagine that today's date is January 1, 2023:

The era of mind fragmentation is over

Remember when we all believed that what could not be expressed in 140 characters should not be expressed at all? When we all thought that we prepared for the future when we cut down on everything that made sense in a greater context? Luckily, those days are over now. Too bad with the hardship that mankind had to suffer before coming to grips with the priorities which we should all have had from the beginning. It seems inevitable that major paradigms develop in time like waves. We still have people among us who remember the shift during the summer of 1945.

Mechanical engineers now experience the satisfaction that the "T" of "IoT" enjoys an increasing amount of respect. We may still live in an era of "experience economy". However, people have learnt the hard way that if a thing does not work, the experience of it will invariably suffer.

The money in the CAE business now flows as it always should have

Only five years ago, shareholders of the CAE industry still thought that mergers and acquisitions would solve something important to others than the shareholders themselves. Even though lower-ranking professionals had for a long time realized that a concentration of decision power did not solve any real issues, the unlimited license revenues associated with a monopoly still lured like the myth about gold at the end of the rainbow.

Then the big bluff was exposed: Gradually, everybody realized that the lion's share of CAE revenues came from intellectual property that could easily be replicated. The best open-source packages - irrespective of the fact that non-experts never found them easy to handle - turned out to contain algorithms that could compete with the number-crunching ability of the licensed packages. Therefore, the big vendors were forced to decrease their number-crunching surcharge to a level defined by the open-source alternatives.

This had an immense effect on the overall cash flow of the CAE business. Some of the surplus was channelled into innovative start-up companies which looked at the world with fresh eyes.

A fresh look at things was really what the big vendors had been missing for years. As the short-term interests of the shareholders came to dictate more and more, the efforts of the big vendors got an ever-increasing focus on how to avoid cannibalization of the big revenues originating from number-crunching.

Until the whole thing

  • collapsed for the unwise share of the big vendors
  • stabilized for the wise share of the big vendors

History has a strange habit of repeating itself. The big vendors opting for collapse made the exact same mistakes as IBM made at the end of the twentieth century (and which Enron repeated a few years later). And those opting for stabilization did what Microsoft did when that company realized that world dominance was not worthwhile. Not even for Microsoft.

The end of a nightmare, really

When the top performers of the new generation of CAE vendors took off about five years ago, a strange period followed. Most big vendor representatives started to act as if there was a big, invisible elephant in the room. This made open, unbiased discussions difficult. For low-level customers, it was also painful to become unfriendly with representatives who had been nice guys a few years earlier. Fruitful technical discussions were only marginally easier with big vendor representatives who decided to claim that the elephant was just a mouse...

Glorious times for engineers ahead

After WWII, the Germans experienced what they termed the "Wirtschaftswunder". Later, they discovered that wirtschaftswunders are countable. We all have reasons to believe that in the years ahead of us, the wirtschaftswunder count for the entire world will increase by one. The joy of engineering has been rediscovered.

I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2023!

Kim Ravn-Jensen

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